- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s an old saying that “a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.” Over the past month that kind of political re-thinking may have started in California, where citizens who routinely vote for liberal, pro-open-borders ideologues at the federal, state and local levels have come face to face with the real-world consequences of such decisions:

Specifically, they are learning about San Francisco’s policy of shielding illegal-alien juvenile thugs from deportation, which may have resulted in a triple murder that occurred last month in the city. In some ways, the furor over San Francisco’s sanctuary policies is reminiscent of the wave of opposition that forced then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to kill his own proposal to give driver’s licenses to illegals last fall.

Today, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome - a liberal Democrat who bragged about the city’s sanctuary policies until just a few months ago - says he has rescinded them. But it may be too late to salvage Mr. Newsome’s expected run for governor in 2010.

In the Bay Area, the case that sparked the outrage was the June 22 killing of San Francisco resident Tony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, who were murdered on their way home from a family picnic. Police say Tony Bologna made a fatal mistake: temporarily blocking a car driven by Edwin Ramos, a 21-year-old illegal alien and a member of MS-13, a Salvadoran criminal gang, from making a left turn. Ramos allegedly pulled a gun and shot Tony, Matthew and Michael Bologna to death. He plead not guilty last week to three counts of first-degree murder in the case.

The Bologna murders have sparked widespread outrage as information has pored out about San Francisco’s sanctuary policies and how Ramos, despite his illegal status and numerous run-ins with the law prior to the slayings, was never deported. Ramos came to the United States in 2000, and had his first run-in with San Francisco police on Oct. 22, 2003, at age 17. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Ramos and fellow gang members boarded a bus and severely beat a man they suspected was a member of a rival gang. Ramos was convicted in juvenile court and put in a shelter. Although he could have been referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation, the city Juvenile Probation Department’s policy for dealing with young hoodlums specified that “probation officers shall not discriminate in any fashion against minors based on their immigration status.” It is unclear whether the department tried to find out whether Ramos was legally in the United States, but if it did, it failed to pass that information along to the federal government.

On April 2, 2004, Ramos was released to his mother’s custody while on probation. Four days later, he attempted to mug a pregnant woman. Ramos was convicted as a juvenile of attempted robbery and sent to a city-run camp for juvenile offenders. Sometime after he turned 18, federal authorities learned that Ramos was not a legal U.S. resident when he applied for legal residency and was rejected. Around that time, he married a U.S. citizen and applied again to immigration officials to remain in the United States - this time as a permanent resident. Ramos’ request was pending when the Bolognas were shot to death last month.

As the illegal alien tried to gain legal status, he continued getting arrested. On March 30, 2008, police stopped Ramos’ car in San Francisco’s notoriously violent Tenderloin district. A passenger in the vehicle attempted to dispose of a handgun. (Police later learned that the gun had been used in a double murder on March 29.) But city prosecutors refused to file charges against Ramos, saying that they could not prove that he knew his passenger was carrying the gun. So, three days after his arrest, Ramos was released from jail. The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency did not ask about Ramos’ immigration status until after he was released.

But the crux of the problem has long been San Francisco’s routine flouting of federal immigration law. Several years ago, city juvenile probation officials, pointing to San Francisco’s sanctuary status, came up with an innovative new way to deal with illegal-alien juveniles from Honduras who were caught dealing crack cocaine: Protect them from possible federal deportation by having San Francisco taxpayers fund flights back to Honduras to “reunite” the hoodlums with their families back home. Unfortunately, city police say, the policy has had the unfortunate result of encouraging adult criminals, who can be reported to federal authorities if they commit a crime, to pretend to be juveniles. “Some of them have been arrested four or five times,” Capt. Tim Hettrich, who headed the police department’s narcotics unit, told the Chronicle. Capt. Hettrich scoffed at the strategy of returning the criminals to Honduras, saying that they “probably get the round trip, and the next day, they will be right back here.”

Last month, San Francisco officials stopped flying the “juvenile” offenders to their native countries and decided to send eight of them to group homes. All eight promptly escaped. Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, has written a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey urging that, in view of San Francisco’s systematic refusal to comply with federal immigration law, the Justice Department rather than local authorities prosecute Ramos. If this happens, San Franciscans will have city officials to thank for the embarrassment.

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